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Race Preview: Toronto Triathlon Festival

June 19, 2015 5 comments

TTFLogo

I’m actually really nervous about this race.  I shouldn’t be, but I am.

Someone asked me the other day how many triathlons I have done?  This will be my tenth.  5 Sprint distance races, 3 Olympic distance races, and 1 Try-a-Tri, and now this one.  Ten races in what is now my 5th summer in the sport (which is really cool, and should probably be a separate post in it’s own right).  In fact, I even did this race last year – I loved it, and I did really well at it too!

Why am I so nervous?  I think because I feel underprepared.  A funny thing happens somewhere around your 5th summer racing/your 10th race – you start to care about more than ‘just finishing’.  As my wife said to me a few weeks ago, there’s no doubt I could walk onto an Olympic distance race course tomorrow and finish.  It might be ugly, but I would finish.  And that used to be enough.  Somewhere along the way I started wanting more.

I’ve put in the work.  I joined a Master’s swimming group – granted I’ve been out less than 10 times since I’ve joined, but that’s still a lot more (and better) swimming than I’ve trained in the past.  And I’ve also joined a cycling group, which has really pushed me on the bike.  Today is the 19th of June – less than half way though the calendar year, and with all of summer still ahead of me – and I’ve already swam more than I did either of the past two whole years.  I’ve biked 60% as much so far as in all of 2013 and 40% as much as 2014 (when I was bike-commuting to work).  I’ve even run already almost 60% as much as I did last year.  That’s a whole lot of numbers-mumbo-jumbo to say: I’ve put the work in.

15Yearly1

2013 vs 2014 vs 2015 (to date) full year training volumes

But my last few training sessions have all been rough.  Both of my runs this past week – both <8kms – have been absolute slugs.  My legs hurt, my heart rate was elevated, and I just felt off.  My ride this past week, and in fact all of my rides so far this spring, while I’ve been putting in the work have felt tough and the split times have been slow.  My bike feels like it’s 20lbs (that’s a lot for a road bike), and even the easy gears feel like a lot of work.  And while I’ve put a lot of quality work into my swim, it’s been over 3 weeks since I last got into the pool.  The quantity of work is there, but the quality feels gross.  I don’t feel like I’m peaking for race day – I feel like I’m about to stumble over the start line.  Which isn’t to say I don’t think I can finish, but I’m nervous about doing well.

But I know this course, and it suits me well.  It’s flat and fast.  I’m a power cyclist (strong legs, can pump a heavy gear for a long time, not good at all on hill climbs), and a confident swimmer.  And I’ve done this race before, and loved it.  This all gives me confidence.  Last year I finished this same course in 3:17:40.93, which is currently my Olympic distance Personal Best.  I think I can beat that!

So, if you happen to be awake at 6:54am on Sunday morning, when my swim wave goes off, send a cheer my way.  Or, ya know, go back to bed!

easier faster

Fun With Numbers: Bike vs. Run

June 5, 2015 2 comments

BikeRunimg via http://www.clarksd.com/potato/walk.htm)

Happy Friday everyone!

Ok, we all know I’m a crappy runner.  I’m slow as mud.  My heart rate skyrockets and I’m sweating like crazy after two steps.  It’s nuts!  And I’ve always thought the solution to fixing this is more running.  But maybe it’s actually more cycling?

According to this article from ironman.com, for triathletes, weekly running effort (in distance) should not be more than approximately 20% of weekly cycling effort.  Further, the difference between your open run pace, and your run pace off the bike should be no more than 12% for Ironman distances, or 6% for 70.3 distances (which, I’m going to extrapolate down to 3% for Olympic distances, though it really doesn’t matter).  If the difference is greater, the reason for the slow run could be caused by a lack of bike durability as much as a need to improve pure open run ability.

How would this apply to me?  Looking at my own race history, my last 5 open 10k runs have averaged 64.5 minutes to complete.  The 3 Olympic triathlons I’ve completed, the 10k run component has taken me, on average 76 minutes to complete.  That’s a ~10% increase, suggesting I’m spending a disproportionately low amount of training on the bike.

Have I been?  In 2014 I logged 1,590kms of cycling and 469.14kms of running.  Running = 30% of cycling distance.  So far in 2015 I’ve logged 705.89kms on the bike, and 241.04kms of running.  Running = 34% of cycling distance.  Since May 1st I’ve logged 201.73kms on the bike, and 80.06kms of running.  Running = 40% of cycling distance.   Yep, my running is well more than 20% of my cycling, and it’s going in the wrong direction.

What does it mean?  Who the hell knows.  It’s an interesting thought exercise, at least.  And assuming you take the logic of this article as fact (which, it’s Friday, so sure) I need to get my ass on the bike a lot more.  Apparently that will help with my tri run?  Seems as good as anything to try – it can’t hurt, and it sure beats the idea of more running volume as the solution.

Do you cycle to improve your run?  What other tricks to you use?

At A Crossroads (or May 2015 Month in Review)

June 1, 2015 Leave a comment

badtri

As I write this, I’m 20 days away from my first race of the season – the Olympic Distance at the Toronto Triathlon Festival.  And I’m feeling really torn (and a fair bit tired) – like I’m at a crossroads of sorts.  Like at some point soon I need to decide what I want out of triathlon, or perhaps more accurately, what I want to put into triathlon (and what I’m willing to accept out of it, consequently).

15MayWeekly

Let’s look back at the month of May.  My training in May was a tail of two triathletes.  The first week (and a half) and the last week were really strong, focused training weeks.  I had a decent balance and volume of training in all 3 sports.  I had some high intensity days and some recovery days.  Everything felt like it clicked.  The middle two weeks were the opposite – I dragged myself out for a little bit of running, but that was it.  I was lazy, disinterested, and found all kinds of excuses not to get in the pool or touch the bike.  I got tired, and a little burnt out.  I backed off.  I spent my time on other hobbies instead.

Last week was a great week.  This morning I feel exhausted.  I missed my swim this morning and rationalized my way out of biking this evening.  I’m backing off again.  I don’t know if that’s good or bad.

14May15MayMonthly

Looking back over the past year I think helps paint the picture.  Disregarding the ‘sports’ minutes (baseball/volleyball/curling, etc, which I stopped tracking around the new year), May of 2014 was a (relatively) giant month for me for training, if not a little bit imbalanced.  As we got into the summer – into the core of race season (and also the core of patio season) – my training really tapered off.  It became real easy to hear the excuses not to train: how much time it took, how tired I felt, how many other fun things there were to do over the summer.  In fact, you have to go back to May of last year to find the last time I did as much training as I did in May of this year, and that’s even with those two lazy weeks.

Which brings me back to my original crossroads question: what do I want out of triathlon?  On one hand, I’m really damn proud of the work I put in this past month.  It’s the most I’ve ran or swam in over a year.  And not only have the volumes gone up, but having joined a swimming group and a cycling group, the intensity has gone up too.  I feel stronger than I have in a LONG time.

On the other hand, I feel more tired than I have in a long time.  And I feel a little bit more disinterested than I have in a long time (which I think correlates inversely with the approach of patio season, and the plethora of other fun summer things I could be doing with my training time).  To keep up this training means making choices – and at some point I have to decide where this falls on my personal priority list.  Right now, I feel like my mind changes back and forth each week.

I read a great blog post a few weeks back called It’s All About That Bass: How The Triathlon Industry Gets It Wrong (go read it now, I’ll wait…).  It’s a fantastic article that discusses a lot of points on motivation in the triathlon age-group industry and how it could be better approached by marketing.  A fantastic read, which I really enjoyed, and hardly relates to what I’m discussing here today other than it makes one really key distinction:

The sport is growing from an increasing number of new athletes who are more average, heavier, less athletic but still inspired to participate– if not necessarily compete.

This has really stuck with me since reading this piece:  Am I in this sport to participate, or to compete?  What do I want to get out of triathlon?  What do I want to put into it?

History tells me I can back off my training – I can enjoy all the patios and beaches and summer fun that I’d like, do the occasional Weekend Warrior training, and still participate in triathlon races.  That’s what I did last year, and truthfully every summer in the past.  I can be that average, heavier, less athletic but still inspired to participate athlete.  I can finish, grab my finisher’s medal, sweaty selfie, and post race pint, and be on my way.  I can do that without feeling so tired, so burnt out, all summer long.  I can choose that balance.  And that’s not a bad thing – even doing that much would make me a much healthier and fitter self than I was before I got into the sport, and would still let me enjoy the fun of race day.

But what if I want to compete?  What if I want to push myself?  What if I want to try to race faster, or race longer distances?  What if this summer I want to tell my family and friends that I need to pass on the Saturday night patio, because I have an early morning ride the next morning?  What if I want to make this a priority?  But even so, to what end?  I’m never going to be a pro.  I’m realistically never really going to “compete” (other than competing against myself).  Is that worth the trade off?  Maybe…

I’m at a crossroads, and I don’t know which way I’m leaning.  I know that I’m really proud of the work I did this month.  And I know that I’m really tired.  And I don’t know what to do with that.

Some days you get the bear…

April 28, 2015 1 comment

GRCC

Last night’s ride sucked!

I should qualify that statement a bit.  1) I’m really glad I went.  2) I have several takeaways to make future rides better.  3) I’m then gonna chalk this one up to a crappy ride and a good story, and close the book on it.  No discouragement.  Some days you get the bear, some days the bear gets you.

Last night I had my second ride with the Grand River Cycling Club.  Monday nights are a routine 43km easy ride (or recovery ride).  Looking back at my race log my 40km bike split is often in the 1:25:00 to 1:35:00 range.  Last night 43km took me 2:03:00!!!  The previous and first ride I did with the club was just over 2 weeks ago, the Sunday morning “touring pace” long ride, which we did 73km that day.  That ride went reasonably fine.  Yesterday went terrible.

Let’s pause there for a second: 73km touring pace went fine, 43km easy pace was a disaster.  What the hell happened?!?

I knew this was going to be tough for an “easy ride” right from the parking lot – a chilly 5°C – where every other rider had riding tights, shoe covers, and other warm riding gear.  Here I was, looking the part of the newbie, in my shorts, breathable summer cycling shoes, and a light spring jacket.  Earlier in the day I was in a running shop buying a few gels for tonight’s ride (foreshadowing: right now would have been a great time to take one of them.  Strike 1) and I saw some clearance runners tights on sale.  I thought about buying a pair, but cheapness frugalness prevailed.  Those tights would have been really nice right about now!  Strike 2

I pulled my bike out of my car and started to get it ready: put the front wheel back on, which I wrenched on there pretty tight, and dug the half full water bottle out of my swim bag and put it onto the bike.  The ride is heading out from a park, so there was nowhere to fill it back up.  Should have brought it into work in between for a fill… whoops.  Strike 3

The ride set out and was uneventful for the slightly downhill first half of the route.  We were a large enough group to ride 2-up, so I had some great chatter with a few other riders, one of whom was at last week’s “easy ride” and told me the group this week was really pushing it relative to last week.  It felt a hair slower than race pace to me – something I shouldn’t have a problem sustaining for 40+km, but at times was hardly easy.  It probably took more energy out of me than I realized, and should have popped a gel right around here.  Strike 4 (starting to see the problem yet?)

The first sign of trouble came around the 2/3 mark.  Riding on a reasonably flat stretch, I was near the front of the group, when I started to fall back from the bike in front.  I tried to close the gap, but I couldn’t.  Riders from behind started to pass me.  I moved from the front of the group, to the back, to behind very suddenly.  I couldn’t catch up.  I was working hard, but not making up ground.  After a few tough km, one of the other riders looped back to ride with me (very nice of him).  He commented that my chain sounded a bit loud, and maybe it was sapping some of my energy efficiency.  I felt like I was laboring, no matter what gear I was in.

Then I heard a sudden loud pop.  My chain ceased briefly, after which I couldn’t switch down out of my big cog.  Something broke (and I’m still not sure what).  I was now limited to the heavy half of my gear options, and the ride home was almost fully uphill.

By the 3/4 mark the clouds were parting and the sun was coming out, and so was the headwind.  A few flags we past were blowing stiffly against us.  By now it was close to 8pm and distinctly colder than when we set out.  I was tired, cold, and starting to get very hungry.  I was thinking back to the morning’s 3,600m swim, to the food I’d eaten during the day.  To the gels I bought, but hadn’t taken yet.  To the running tights I could have bought, but didn’t.  I was falling apart.

My buddy rider stuck with me all the way back, over 2hours to ride 43km.  My hero!  He looked like he was coasting – barely going fast enough to ride a straight line while I was pushing for all I had.

I threw the bike in the car, cranked the heater, ate 2 gels, and drove home to warm up.

I think a few things conspired to make yesterday’s ride a complete shit show:

  1. First, I think I need to point a bit of a finger at the engine (aka my early season lack of fitness).  While the first ride may have been okay, I’m still getting my legs back, and did spend a week in between eating and drinking and sitting on my ass in Cuba.  It’s not lost on me that the engine needs some serious work!
  2. This was my first crack at a Masters Swim in the morning on the same day as a Club Ride after work.  I had swam 3,600m earlier that day already, which itself is an amount I’m still getting used to.  I need to figure out how to manage my energy and calories better on Mondays if I’m going to keep doing both
  3. Unless it warms up quickly (and I really hope it does), I need to invest in some warmer cycling clothes!
  4. I need to take my bike into the shop.  The shifting needs to be fixed, but something wasn’t right before that – not sure if the chain just needs to be oiled, or if something’s rubbing against a wheel (is it possible to put the front wheel back on too tightly??).  My bike was working against me – it needs some TLC!

Yesterday’s ride sucked, but there’s be others soon (as soon as the bike is back from the shop).  Some days you get the bear, some days the bear gets you.  Next week I’ll come back stronger!

The Next Phase

April 27, 2015 3 comments

DCuba15

I love vacation!  I spent last week in sunny Cuba with 14 great friends, weather almost 30°C warmer than it is here now at home, with a Rum Punch in my hand the whole week, and not a cloud in the sky.  That was the life for 8 days.  I did a pair of token 20 minute sessions in the gym at the resort, but we’re not fooling anyone here: I did absolutely zero training last week.  And I loved it!

This trip was on the calendar for months, and I always viewed it as a line in the sand (pun intended).  Up until now I’ve been going through the motions of winter off-season training: hour-long sessions on the spin bikes at the gym, morning treadmill runs watching whatever the gym televisions had to offer as distraction.  Winter base training, mostly done indoors, and sporadically adhering to my training schedule.

But Cuba has come and gone – amazing a trip as it was – and now it’s time to ramp this shit into gear.  Off-season training is over.  May rolls in at the end of this week, so I’m officially declaring it race season!  And I’m really excited.

So, only 4 days back from vacation I kicked off this morning with a 4:15am alarm clock and drove in to Guelph for my swim with The Guelph Marlins masters swimming program.  I’ve swam with them a few times over the past few weeks (again: sporadically), but it’s time to start making this a regular thing.  3,600m swims first thing in the morning are a great way to get the day started (and to make you want to eat all-the-things all day long).

My bike is packed in the car for my after work ride with the Grand River Cycling Club, another group I’ve just recently joined.  Like The Marlins, I’m hoping cycling with a group will help me stick to a schedule, and help me push my training by getting out there with much stronger riders.  Tonight’s planned ride is an “easy recovery” 43km – I guess “easy recovery” is a relative term, and seeing as this will be my second time out on the bike this year it might not be so easy.  That being said, looking back at my data from last year, I didn’t get to my second training ride for the year until… never (yep, excluding races and lots of bicycle commuting, I only went for one single training ride in all of 2014.  Yikes!!!  No wonder my cycling last year was rough!).  I don’t care if it currently feels like 5°C out there – I’m looking forward to this one!

I haven’t joined a running group this summer, and I don’t intend to.  I enjoy the solitude of running alone (or the occasional LSD run with my wife), and frankly scheduling a third group around 3 weekly swims and 3 weekly rides would be a nightmare!

I’m 13 days away from my first race of the year, a fun tune-up 10k run at The Sporting Life 10K.  I do this run annually with a cousin of mine, but it also serves as a gut-check reminder that race season is here and real!  My goal for this race is 59:59 – after last year’s 1:00:07 frustration, I want so badly to run my first ever sub 1hr 10K.  After that, I start to focus on the Toronto Triathlon Festival (Olympic Distance), only 9 weeks away.

It’s coming on fast and furious – summer is here (even if the weather doesn’t know it yet) and race season is right around the corner.  Time to start the next phase of my training.  Time to get to work!!

Month in Review

March 2, 2015 1 comment

badtri

Looking Back, February 2015:

15FebMonthly15FebWeekly

What do you call something that was less than what you hoped, but better than what you did last time?  An improvement?  A poor expectation?

It’s taken me a good 6 months to get back into training after race season ended last year – if you can call what I’m doing right now ‘into training’ – though I do feel I’m starting to turn a corner.  For me it’s all about consistency of routine, and I’m not nearly as consistent as I’d like to be yet, though I’m probably about as consistent as I’ve ever really been at any point in my training past (and certainly more consistent than at any time in the past 6 months).  So maybe that’s good?  I think I’m thinking of it as good, but with a big asterisk.  I know I can do better…

Looking Forward:

… which means March is the time to put up or shut up.  I have 6.5 weeks until a lovely trip down south that I’m very much looking forward to, and is going to wreck all hell and havoc on my training routine, I just know it.  So I’ve got 6.5 weeks to really make that routine solid before I go, and before I come back and right into my first race in early May.  My weekly training routine is pretty standard (the specific intervals, weights, reps change week to week, but the routine is solid):

15WeeklyRoutine

So what do I need to do to make this happen?

  1. Strength sessions are priority.  Never short change a strength session.  Get strong before you go long!
  2. Saturday Long Run is the most important workout of the week.  Everything else feeds into (or off of) that
  3. Monday evening’s easy spin and Friday morning’s swim are optional.  Hit them when I’m strong.  Take them off when I need rest.  When in doubt, remember points #1 and #2
  4. Get my ass out of bed and hit my morning sessions.  And leave my crap in the gym locker.  I can’t talk myself out of an evening session if I have to go back to pick up my crap anyway.
  5. Laundry must be done Tuesday and Sunday evening.  It is known.  Lack of clean workout clothes is not an excuse.  This should almost be part of my training calendar.
  6. Monday & Thursday am/pm sessions can be swapped if needed, if I get to the gym in the morning and one of the good stationary bikes is free (the ones with the TV that works).  A good stationary bike is key to surviving a 60 minute workout.  Spring can’t come fast enough!!
  7. I think ‘Get my ass out of bed’ needs to go on this list a second time.
  8. Whenever not training (or working, which I’m pretty good about not doing outside of 9-5) spend time with my wife.  This is my time – the rest is her time.

So I guess that’s what I’m focusing on for March.  That’s a pretty big list…

5 Things I Think I Think:

  1. February 2015 was the coldest month in Toronto in the history of ever.  Fuck that shit!
  2. I’m considering joining the Grand River Cycling Club this summer.  I’ve never cycled with a group before.  One of the things I’ve always liked about cycling (and triathlon in general) is the individualistic nature of the sport.  I like team sports – but a 1-2hr cycle is a great chance for some self time.  But perhaps having a group to cycle with would be a good thing, with regular ride times, routes, and paces?  I think it would help with the ‘consistency’ thing I’m going for here
  3. Sports Geek: As I’m typing this, I’m watching a live tweet feed of the Blue Jays intersquad game.  The season hasn’t even started yet.  The preseason hasn’t even started yet.  And. I’m. Already. Geeking. Out.  Opening day is just 5 weeks away.  It’s not just that baseball is awesome (which, it is), but it’s the start of summer.  It’s sitting out in the sun, drinking overpriced crappy beer, and watching a bunch of millionaire grown men play a game.  It’s baseball.  #SoExcited!!
  4. Beer Geek: My wife had a rare weekend off this weekend, so we had a chance to hop across the border for a romp with some American (and international) craft beers.  I got to sample a whole bunch of things, and we brought a whole lot more back with us.  I think my favorite of the night might have been the Allagash Interlude.  Allagash is quickly becoming a favorite brewery of mine.
  5. It’s just started snowing outside my window again as I type this.  *sigh* I’m so ready for spring.

What do you do to make yourself get out and train during the winter?

Beginner Triathlete Tricks of the Trade

February 5, 2015 1 comment

locks

I read a lot of articles about triathlon training.  Most of them focus on advice for seasoned triathletes – how to improve power output, functional threshold training, stroke efficiency, etc. etc.  That’s great – I’m sure this is helpful reading to the many triathletes out there who already log 10-15 hours per week and are looking for those extra tips to get them on the podium.

I’m not them.  And though I’ve been racing for a few years, I’m still effectively a beginner at this sport.  And as a kind-of-beginner, I’m still looking for tricks of the trade to help beginners get their foot in the door, so to speak, in this amazing-yet-insane sport.

Here’s one that I stumbled on myself that I’ve fallen in love with: Hijack a day use locker at your local gym!  It works!

The only way I can get enough sessions of swimming, biking, and running (plus some strength and flexibility training, in a perfect world) in each week is to do 2-a-days.  Get a work out in before work, and another in later in the evening.  It seems like a lot, but the body gets too tired to do the same volume of training in a single session, and my boss wouldn’t like it if I was an hour later getting into work each morning.  The problem is: after a tiring training session in the morning, and a full day at work, I just want to go home – eat, socialize, rest, and get to bed.  How do I make myself go back to the gym for that second session?

The answer: Leave my stuff in the locker.  The gym has all kinds of signs up that tell you that lockers are day use only, and not to leave locks on overnight.  But when I’m there at 6am, why not leave my stuff in the same locker all day and come back to find it at 6pm?  It means the morning’s gym clothes aren’t stinking up my car all day at work, and the afternoon’s gym clothes aren’t freezing cold from sitting in the car all day!  PLUS, if I don’t haul my ass back to the gym in the evening, my lock’s going to get cut over night and all my crap will be stolen (okay – really, are they gonna take dirty gym clothes?!?)

I don’t leave my wallet or phone or anything else so valuable in there that I’d rally be upset if it was stolen – if someone breaks in and steals my sweaty shoes or shorts, well, hopefully they really needed them.  But knowing I have to go back and pick them up forces me to get back to the gym, and not make excuses to skip the second workout.  It works really well – keeps me motivated, keeps me on track, and keeps me training!

So locker 122 at the local YMCA is mine.  They don’t know that, but it is.

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